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Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM)

Published in Association with the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM)

Editor-in-Chief: Plebani, Mario

Ed. by Gillery, Philippe / Greaves, Ronda / Lackner, Karl J. / Lippi, Giuseppe / Melichar, Bohuslav / Payne, Deborah A. / Schlattmann, Peter

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THC and CBD concentrations in blood, oral fluid and urine following a single and repeated administration of “light cannabis”

Roberta Pacifici / Simona Pichini / Manuela Pellegrini / Maria Concetta Rotolo / Raffaele Giorgetti / Adriano Tagliabracci / Francesco Paolo Busardò / Marilyn A. Huestis
  • Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, Institute of Emerging Health Professions, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2019-04-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cclm-2019-0119



“Light cannabis” is a product legally sold in Europe with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration lower than 0.2% and variable cannabidiol (CBD) content. We studied THC and CBD excretion profiles in blood, oral fluid (OF) and urine after smoking one or four light cannabis cigarettes.


Blood, OF and urine samples were obtained from six healthy light cannabis consumers after smoking one 1 g cigarette containing 0.16% THC and 5.8% CBD and from six others after smoking four 1 g cigarettes within 4 h. Sample collection began 0.5 and 4.5 h after smoking one or four cigarettes, respectively. Cannabinoid concentrations were quantified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS).


At the first collection, the highest THC and CBD concentrations occurred in blood (THC 7.0–10.8 ng/mL; CBD 30.2–56.1 ng/mL) and OF (THC 5.1–15.5 ng/mL; CBD 14.2–28.1 ng/mL); similar results occurred 0.5 h after the last of four cigarettes in blood (THC 14.1–18.2 ng/mL, and CBD 25.6–45.4 ng/mL) and OF (THC 11.2–24.3 ng/mL; CBD 14.4–37.0 ng/mL). The mean OF to blood ratio ranged from 0.6 to 1.2 after one and 0.6 to 1.9 after four light cannabis cigarettes. THC/CBD ratios in blood and OF were never greater than 2. Urinary 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC concentrations peaked 8 h after one and four cigarettes.


OF was a valuable alternative to blood in monitoring consumption of light cannabis. Blood and OF THC/CBD concentration ratios, never exceeded 2, possibly providing a useful biomarker to identify light cannabis vs illegal higher THC cannabis use, where THC/CBD ratios are generally greater than 10.

Keywords: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); blood; light cannabis; oral fluid; urine; variable cannabidiol (CBD)


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About the article

Corresponding author: Simona Pichini, PhD, National Centre on Addiction and Doping Istituto Superiore di Sanità, V.le Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy, Phone: +39 06 49906544, Fax: +39 06 49902016

Received: 2019-02-01

Accepted: 2019-03-12

Published Online: 2019-04-08

Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

Research funding: Presidency of the Ministers Council, Department of Antidrug Policy.

Employment or leadership: None declared.

Honorarium: None declared.

Competing interests: The funding organisation(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.

Citation Information: Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM), 20190119, ISSN (Online) 1437-4331, ISSN (Print) 1434-6621, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cclm-2019-0119.

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